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Pipeline sabotage reported in southern Iraq

Bush says security at issue in Saddam handover

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Coalition won't hand over Saddam Hussein until Iraq is secure.

Iyad Allawi discusses the status of Saddam Hussein.

Some U.S. troops have the task of rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure.
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BASRA, Iraq (CNN) -- Saboteurs attacked a key pipeline in the Persian Gulf, halting export of oil through Iraq's two offshore terminals as insurgents ratcheted up violence 15 days before the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.

The main pipeline along the Faw Peninsula in southern Iraq was badly damaged by sabotage earlier Tuesday, said Dominic D'Angelo, spokesman for Coalition Provisional Authority South.

A second pipeline was shut off as a precautionary measure until engineers repair fractured piping.

It's not known how long supplies will be cut. CPA South said there was heavy damage from the explosion and the subsequent fire, which was put out by Iraqi firemen and Iraqi security forces.

Meanwhile, crude oil export rates have fallen dramatically from 1.7 million to 500,000, regional shippers told Reuters.

A number of pipeline attacks were reported last week, with the major attack on the line between Kirkuk and Turkey.

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said the attacks have cost the country "more than $200 million in revenues."

Iraq's two offshore terminals were themselves the target of an attack by suicide bombers in April. The attack failed but two U.S. sailors and a U.S. Coast Guard member were killed.

Claim for Baghdad bombing

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, briefing reporters Tuesday, said there was an attack on a three-vehicle coalition contractor convoy west of Baghdad near the airport.

Initial reports indicated that people died in the incident, Kimmitt said. It was the second day in a row a contractor convoy was hit.

On Monday, a car bombing killed 13 people, including five foreign contractors. Tuesday, a group that claims to be headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a suspected al Qaeda operative, claimed responsibility for that attack.

"By the Grace of God, members of the martyrdom squadron of Jama'at al-Tawhid and Jihad were able to ambush a convoy of mercenary parasites in the center of the Iraqi capital," said a statement posted on an Islamist Web site. The statement's authenticity could not be confirmed.

"Several cars were destroyed and the body parts of the infidels were seen flying in the air," it continued. "These operations are a clear message to the Americans that their path in Muslim countries will not be as easy as they believed."

President Bush repeated his administration's claim that Iraq was in league with al Qaeda under Saddam Hussein's rule, saying Tuesday that al-Zarqawi is the link tying Saddam with the terrorist network. (Full story)

"Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to al Qaeda affiliates and al Qaeda," Bush told reporters at the White House. "He's the person who's still killing."

Appearing Tuesday at a news conference with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Bush said the United States is working with the Iraqi interim government on a schedule for the transfer of Saddam Hussein to its custody.

"One thing, obviously, is that we don't want, and I know the Iraqi interim government doesn't want, is there to be lax security and for Saddam Hussein to somehow not stand trial for the horrendous murders and torture that he inflicted upon the Iraqi people," Bush said.

Iraqi leader: Saddam transfer talks 'progressing well'

Iraq's interim prime minister said the fledgling government is actively talking with coalition authorities for the handover of the former Iraqi president.

"Negotiations are under way and are progressing well," said Allawi in an interview on CNN's "American Morning."

Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor labeled the talks as a "discussion," rather than a negotiation.

Under international law, Saddam cannot be handed over to a government that is not yet sovereign, Senor said. Also, a handover of Saddam doesn't have to be made until there is a cessation of active hostilities -- but there doesn't have to be a complete end to fighting.

Sovereignty is scheduled to be restored to the interim Iraqi government at midnight June 30.

When asked why Saddam hasn't been charged yet, Senor said that once the Iraqi war crimes tribunal builds its case and establishes evidence, "they will file the formal charges."

Pentagon officials said that until they are confident Iraqi forces can prove they can keep Saddam -- and the thousands of detainees -- safe, the United States would continue to hold them.

Saddam was captured by U.S. troops December 13 near his ancestral home of Tikrit, where he was hiding in a "spider hole." U.S. officials have described Saddam as being less than cooperative during his interrogations.

Other developments:

  • Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating prewar Iraq intelligence expressed displeasure Tuesday with CIA efforts to keep large parts of the committee's report secret. (Full story)
  • The commander of the Iraqi police department in Sadat Al Henda was killed by unknown attackers on his way to work. An Iraqi was killed and another was wounded when a vehicle exploded outside a coalition base between Iskandariyah and Hilla.
  • Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar greeted the news that renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is mulling entry into politics as a "very smart move." U.S. forces have been battling the cleric's Mehdi Army militia for weeks, but fighting has subsided in Kufa and Najaf with the advent of a negotiated cease-fire between Shiite authorities and al-Sadr. "I kept on saying consistently that if I were in his shoes, I would try to go to the political arena instead of raising arms," al-Yawar said.
  • CNN's Brent Sadler in Basra and Mike Mount contributed to this report.

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